Day 3: On the ground @ SXSW

Posted by Mitchell Communications Group on March 9, 2014

Mitchell Communications Group has four team members on site at SXSW – the music, film and interactive festival that has taken over Austin, Texas. Here are their ah-ha moments from Sunday, as SXSW unveils the technology of tomorrow today.

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The Atlantic, one of the nation's oldest printed publications, has been in circulation for 157 years. Like most print magazines, it has seen its share of hard times. A few years ago, the magazine decided to reinvent itself to better align with modern readers. The result has been better than the company expected and has propelled it into the spotlight as a model for how print publications can survive in a digital age.

atlanticM. Scott Havens, president of The Atlantic, shared five basic principles for its success:

  • Assemble world-class talent
  • Run the company like a startup
  • Differentiate through brand strategy
  • Think digital (mobile) first
  • Diversify revenue streams

Quotable quote: "Magazine articles are incredible social currency."

A few things I liked at the SXSW trade show:

  • Gig Salad - The No. 1 place to book talent for your next event
  • Beam Pro - Remote video conferencing at a more personal and engaging level
  • 10,000ft - Collaboratively manage people and projects
  • Personagraph - Discover what users do outside your app
  • Buncee - A simplified creation and presentation tool
  • Social Compass - Turning conversations into customers

– Greg Smith, director of marketing

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Today kicked off with a great session with Erin Clift of Spotify, Scott Aukerman of Comedy Bang! Bang! and Colin Raney of IDEO. They discussed the creative process and workflows. While all three advocated a Post-It note approach to organizing ideas, each had a little different approach.

Raney said they focus on adding curious people to their team who view the world in metaphors. Erin shared with us Spotify's approach to product improvement: an annual required employee hackathon that generates 500 ideas over the course of five days. Aukerman discussed his tactic in limiting time for creation to avoid creative attachment. Team efforts were at the center of each approach.

A visit to the Oculus Rift loft finally gave me an opportunity to see the leading Virtual Reality tech. I find myself wondering that even though the technology will certainly improve, is it merely an effort to fulfill our childhood dreams of VR, or will it become a widespread entertainment device?

Speaking of entertainment, a session with Randi Zuckerberg and House of Cards producer Dana Brunetti proved only informative until Brunetti challenged Nielsen to adapt its television ratings format or “go away.” He's right, seeing as how Netflix can collect micro-data about viewership and last I heard Nielsen was benchmarking on 15-minute increments.

– Jameson Sheppard, associate creative director

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Today I took the general advice of SXSW veterans: be fluid and go with the flow. I went to bed last night mapping out my day, but that quickly went out the door when I realized I was going to have the chance to meet one of my idols, Mindy Kaling.

MINDYHer panel also included the writers/stars of her show, The Mindy Project, Ike Barinholtz and Adam Pally. Her theme was female show runners conquering TV. The discussion, moderated by Marie Claire editor in chief Anne Fulenwider, covered how the general cohesiveness of her writing staff is the reason why the show is great. You can tell with the way the three of them played off of each other that they really do work well.

After the panel, I raced over to the Roku lounge for a more one-on-one setting and to get our pictures taken with Kaling. She truly is an inspiration and great role model for everyone in that if you work hard you can achieve your dreams. She was beyond sweet when I got my picture taken with her and we had a funny conversation over the table topic cards I had her sign – she had no idea that they existed.

I ended my day with a session on Instagram in the News. AP photographer and Time Instagram photographer of the year David Guttenfelder discussed the impact the app had on him being able to send out photos from North Korea. He’s the only photographer that has the credentials to photograph there, and his candid photos show a side of North Korea that most of the world doesn’t get to see.

This was a random day going from lighthearted fun to a more serious matter. I think that this is one of the many reasons that SXSW is great because the panels, speakers and sessions cover a wide range of people from different backgrounds and careers.

– Ann Hecksher, digital and social media account coordinator

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Ann and I had a perfect start to this chilly day by using #CatchAChevy to get a free ride to the convention center. When we arrived, the tradeshow floor was open and hopping. We jetted straight to the session with Mindy Kaling and two of her cast members from The Mindy Project. The discussion was around women in television, comedy and writing. We had a chance to join a smaller one-to-one session with Mindy where she shared personal stories and thoughts on achieving success. Her best piece of advice was to be more perceptive and less expressive. She gained most of her writing inspiration from listening – and working incredibly hard.

I took time to visit the trade show floor to see what new technologies and companies are surfacing at the moment. There were hundreds of booths, but a few that caught my attention included:

  • Chevy showcased several new interactive car models including an electric car called the SparkEV.
  • Aurasma demonstrated its augmented reality capabilities by bringing posters to life with mobile devices.
  • The New York Times offered a photo/video booth where people could snap a photo and create a personalized NYT homepage.
  • IBM had what it is calling its largest presence ever at SXSW including a Cognitive Computing Food Truck and a rich Engagement Center featuring live demos of the latest cloud, mobile and social technologies.
  • Post-It and Evernote joined forces to have a creative and interactive booth. The Post-it Idea Booth had a seasoned team of pitch coaches and illustrators available to help bring visitors’ ideas to life.
  • WordPress won the award for the most giveaways, so it was nice USPS was in the arena. They offered to ship all of your swag home for free.

The last session of the day was Instagramming the News. This was a fascinating session, which included award-winning photojournalist David Guttenfelder. David is currently the only AP photographer with access to North Korea. He describes his work as “opening a window to this dark place” and allowing the rest of the world to know and understand the North Korean culture. David is also known for his work capturing the typhoon in the Philippines with his haunting and sometimes arresting images of the devastation that occurred. When he is on assignment, he works with his professional Canon camera to capture his stories, and he uses his iPhone and Instagram feed as a platform to express his creativity and capture a more intimate side of the places he visits and stories he shares. David has caught the attention of millions of people on Instagram who are able to see parts of the world, such as North Korea, for the first time in history. His work is frequently featured in Time among other highly reputable news outlets. You can follow his handle @dguttenfelder to see more of his work.

– Kate Andersen, vice president of creative and digital services